So I’m teaching Switzerland’s second richest man, apparently a close personal friend of that Indian fella who owns all the world’s steel deposits. He tells me he used to be a farmer who did the decathlon for the Swiss national team but didn’t go to the Olympics because the piglets were in flower or something, and then one day he decided to set up Switzerland’s second largest credit card company, did so, became stupendously wealthy, bought a nice place in St. Moritz (or maybe that was a nice place called St. Moritz) and is now managing director of one of the world’s biggest (maybe even second biggest) investment banks. He’s a nice guy, personable at least, although I’m well aware that while I’m talking to him thousands of minions are running round bankrupting Ireland on his behalf, which means what I’m doing is actually technically wrong in all sorts of important ways, but he asks me what I think of David Cameron and laughs heartily when it very rapidly becomes clear that our worldviews are as diametrically opposed as our income brackets. I’m to be one of his servants for the next five days and my impotent rage seems to entertain him at least. Plus he says things like I used to live in a willage and so you’d like to live in Chapan, and I’m pretty sure I can help him with that.
At 1pm precisely we part for lunch, he presumably to the toppest notchest place open near Exmouth market on a bank holiday, me to Sainsbury’s to spend one pound sixty five on a ham sandwich and a small banana. At precisely 2pm he returns, nearly closes the door behind him and we go back up to the fourth floor so I can continue to assist him in his work looting wulnerable economies. I help him with his pron. of words such as limousine, Bentley and privileged, and spend a slightly frustrating ten minutes trying to explain that the past form of the word read is not spelt red, which is confusing because I have written the word read in blue and the pronunciation, /red/, in red. But apart from that he is entertaining company, especially, or maybe except, when he shows me some photos of some charming young women he met in Wietnam and tells me his new vife is CEO of Europe’s largest (or maybe second largest) chewellry company.
Every hour exactly on the hour we have a break, so he can get on the phone and immiserate Portugal while I make some tea. At four pm I pop downstairs to check messages on my phone, which I left downstairs in the teachers’ room, except that it’s not there, except oh no wait it is, but my wallet’s missing, it’s been stolen, because the door is, as the old joke says, a jar, except it’s not at all funny, because it had my brand new one month zones one to three Oystercard in it and £130.
Back upstairs I happen to casually mention that my wallet has been robbed, to which he saliently points out that maybe, too, his bags, which he brought from Heathrow that morning in a taxi about which he did not once complain about the price, have been nicked. Curious, we go down and look. In a darkened room for which I am, mortifyingly, unable to locate the light switch, we discover that the thief has somehow overlooked his basically chewel-encrusted briefcase, which is presumably packed chock full of the details of Vladimir Putin’s, at at least David Miliband’s, secret bank accounts, the door code for the CERN laboratory and highly confidential information regarding the Swiss nuclear programme. Had they got their hands on it it would have been like wikileaks all over again, which rules out Julian Assange as a culprit, especially since neither of us have been…oh never mind.
The bag that they did take apparently just had some sports equipment and a pair of shoes in it, but he still seems pretty agitated, which is understandable, very few people like to have things stolen, or their economies pillaged, but what the hey. He sympathises with me over the loss of effectively three hundred pounds or pennies or whatever you people call them, but it eventually transpires that what bothers him is not the loss of a sweaty sports singlet and some of those black pumps you used to get at school. It’s not even any emotional attachment to his Prada bag. It’s the theft of his treasured $5,000 pair of crocodile shoes. It seems churlish to point out that he can get the money back on insurance. I suppose we both find it upsetting in our own way that somewhere on earth another crocodile is being prepared for the slaughter.